Long before the term ‘mommy blogger’ was ever coined (and became annoying), there were various women online who wrote about motherhood and other aspects of their creative lives at home. It was like a secret network that the world has not yet discovered.
One of the first blogs I ever discovered was Kristi’s The Domestic Sphere where she shared life with her family, extraordinary knitting—and understanding of knitting—plus other creative endeavours. She no longer updates the blog but the archives are still online. Up until then I had been keeping an ‘online journal’ through my old website, but when I saw Kristi’s blog, I was enchanted and took the plunge into Blogger, joining the ranks of other blogging pioneers.
The blog world seemed so small and intimate back then, and many online friendships formed as we endured unreliable blogging software, lost blog posts, daily technical frustrations, and screechy dial-up connections, inventing the genre as we went along.
Thankfully, blog software has vastly improved, you can now upload large images, and those old cyber friendships have continued.
Welcome to Kristi’s Garden
This is Kristi’s garden in Southern California. Over the years Kristi and I have had various garden-related discussions, and I admit I often experience zone envy. It’s hard to imagine living in such a mild climate like this one where you can leave your furniture out year round and everything I know as annuals are perennial to her. She often reminds me that the trade-off is summer droughts, but it seems a small price to pay for never having to shovel snow again or wear heavy winter boots.
Outdoor Guest Bedroom
Kristi writes: Starting from the backdoor and clockwise.:
‘New Zealand Christmas tree is what I’ve heard it called. Grows pinkish-reddish puffballs in the “winter”. We also call it a Truffula tree, but it’s really a shrub. Green all year and you can trim it into a tidy hedge if you’re so inclined.
Behind that you can just see our olive tree. A gift to my older daughter when she turned 3 from a couple who thought it funny that she’d grab all the olives off their plates and eat them. It fruited for the first time last year and I got 4 quarts of olives! This year nothing. Still working that out. Next, big tree I don’t know the name of. We just gave it a mighty amateurish prune because it was almost touching the house, but it seems impossible to kill so I’m sure it’ll come back.
Along the sides you can see some yellow irises just about to bloom (got those from a neighbor), agave, agapanthus, aloe… plus dandelions, oxalis and clover which I do try pull out. Morning glories are on the trellis on one side and another vine (maybe Thunbergia?) and Cape Honeysuckle on the other. The thing with the giant leaves is a giant bird-of-paradise.’
Cracked Dishes Provide Drainage
‘Succulent display in aging casserole. The dish has a big crack, but I call that “drainage”. Succulents are what grows well here. You just stick them in the dirt. These are all tiny cuttings from my own plants… and my neighbors’! (If I didn’t use compost, I wouldn’t have so many sprouts in my pots!) Also, it rained last night. Could be the last rain of the season, but everything is damp and happy!’
‘When I redid the backyard to get rid of all the grass, we built the big blue box in the middle. It’s got a nectarine tree growing in it as well as dusty miller, scented geranium, artichokes and some more herbs. This is filled with good soil and lots of compost and I usually try to grow some tomatoes and squash (compost volunteers mostly!). This is the only spot in the whole yard that I water.
If you can’t get by on 10″ of rain a year, plus fog, you just aren’t welcome in my yard. It’s been a process of getting to know what will grow and a lot of benign neglect. I looks to places like roadside median strips and even open spaces along the freeway to see what grows well and gladly take cuttings from plants that seem to thrive. I give things a haircut about monthly and pull weeds that seem the most offensive, but mostly I let things grow. I am sure this pains my neighbors at times who wish I maintained a conventional “lawn plus hedge plus floral edging” yard, but I am generally a very good neighbor,so they overlook my unkempt yard.’
‘On the left is lavender… just starting to bloom. I cut it back radically last year (it was twice as wide and up to the windows), so I’m happy it’s coming back. I thought I might kill it, they are supposed to have a lifespan.
Going around clockwise, a pathetic orange tree that’s never really thrived, but when it blossoms, it smells heavenly! Two nice, fat rosemary bushes. And the tree is a fig. A bird “planted” it elsewhere in the yard and I transplanted it to this corner where I wanted some shade and privacy. It’s really thrived. It’s not more than 10 years old and is as big as the house and sturdy enough to climb. In the last couple of years it’s produced an abundance of fruit. I don’t love figs, but still I don’t think the fruit is very tasty. What I love is that it’s a deciduous tree and we get a real range of seasons with bare branches, fruit, and leaves budding, filling in, turning yellow and falling. It’s still leafing out and will be quite dense in a month. Providing some shade over the table when it’s most needed.
The Mediterranean herbs seem to love it here. Great for cooking, but also provide a gentle perfume when you’re sitting outside.
Continuing around past the duct tape tricycle is a bougainvillea. It’s covered in papery bright pink bracts during the warmer months.
That’s aloe in the foreground. It blooms like a “red hot poker” in January/February. You can still see the flower stalks because I haven’t cut them back. Aloes, agaves and yuccas, as well as many small succulents grow freely here. You can take a trimming from a neighbor’s plant, toss it on the ground, or in a pot and ignore it… All the agaves, aloes and succulents came from cuttings from friends and neighbors.’
Create A Kitchen View
Plates add interest to the fence outside the kitchen window:
I hope you enjoyed this tour. There one more neat thing to share with you from Kristi’s garden in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.
Kristi Porter is a knitwear designer and the author of four books, most recently More Knitting in the Sun: 32 Patterns to Knit for Kids (Wiley 2011). She makes her home, with her husband and two daughters, on the coast of Southern California (Zone 9A, Sunset zone 24).
You can see more of Kristi’s books here.